Author: emcommunique

The Day I Met The Suffragette

Originally appeared on this blog August 2016

You can’t see me in this iconic photograph, but I was present among the estimated 50,000 women to march down Fifth Avenue on August 26th, 1970 at the Women’s Strike For Equality in New York City. This was a stellar experience for me and one I remembered throughout my life. On that day I marched beside an original suffragette, who had marched with Susan B. Anthony to win women the vote.  I knew then that someday I’d write about the experience and I did. Without further preamble  here’s the story as it appeared in the Anthology, Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the 60 & 70s, published in 2013.

***

I still remember what she looked like all these years later — a petite woman with a quiet demeanor and a look of determination in her clear green eyes. Her silvery hair, parted in the middle came halfway to her shoulders. She wore no makeup I could see, except a little lipstick, and was simply dressed in lightweight cotton clothing and serviceable sandals — no being hobbled in high heels for her. And she was old enough to be my grandmother — in her early seventies, maybe, but straight backed and fast-moving. I liked her immediately. 

We met on August 26th, 1970, fellow marchers in the Women’s Strike For Equality — a national event, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote. The strike called for women across the country to stop work that day to spotlight inequities in the workforce, In politics, and in social institutions such as marriage. That afternoon in New York City, tens of thousands of women gathered on the sweltering streets of Manhattan and marched down Fifth Avenue to the lawns behind the New York Public Library — demanding equal rights under the law.

I was a twenty-six year old housewife. Leaving my husband home with our two sons and joining the march was a personal declaration of independence for me. I’d been married  for eight years to a man who espoused equal rights and justice for all — but at home, as the assumed head of our household he felt entitled to be in charge.

He was okay with watching the kids three evenings a week while I took college classes — as long as I did the shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and the balance of child care, in addition to my schoolwork. But he wasn’t pleased when I joined the National Organization For Women. Or when I read The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir and began questioning the male/female status quo. Or when I told him he’d be feeding the kids dinner that evening, because was striking  for equality.

My husband shook his head at that. “If you women had to deal with the serous issues men do, you’d stop complaining fast. Well, be home before dark. The streets aren’t safe at night.”

I sighed. His  comments irked me, but I kept silent, not wanting to argue. I kissed my family goodbye and left the apartment, promising to return before dark.

How can we be equal, I wondered, if half of us can’t go out alone at night?

 ***

Filled with excitement and sense of resolve, I rode the subway downtown, exiting at Fifty-Seventh Street and heading east toward Fifth Avenue. The Strike began in the late afternoon and would continue on into the evening, to allow as many women as possible to participate. I was stunned at how many of us there were. Approaching Fifth Avenue, I looked out at a sea of female faces: women of all shapes and sizes, all colors, all ages, married or single, gay or straight. Some held signs  bearing messages: Women Unite! Equality under the Law! We Are The Fifty-one Percent Minority, I Am Not A Barbie Doll! And the slogan of the day — Don’t Iron While The Strike Is Hot!

THE TIME IS NOW!” someone yelled, and the mass of women began moving  forward. This is it I thought, and thrilled by my own daring, merged  with the crowd. When the march monitors on our block passed along  that we would be taking the entire width of the street — not the half  we’d been allotted by the city — we surged forward, arms linked, and with cheers of victory took Fifth Avenue from curb to curb unchallenged by the police.

“WHAT DO WE WANT?”

“EQUALITY!”

“WHEN DO WE WANT IT?”

“NOW!”

Observers lined the streets: women with baby carriages, office workers, shopkeepers, tourists. The majority of people I saw were women, with a sprinkling of men, We were cheered and given the thumbs up sign from the office of a liberal congressional candidate. There were boos, jeers, and loud shouts of “GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN YOU BRA-LESS BIMBOS!” from a crew of construction workers we passed. 

Among the leading marchers were women of achievement: Betty Friedan, strike organizer, first president of NOW, and author of The Feminine Mystique: Gloria Steinem, political activist and founder of New York Magazine: Kate Millet, author of Sexual Politics, and straight talking, peppery, Congresswoman Bella Abzug, tireless champion of women’s rights. I felt honored to be among them.

***

But the highlight of the experience was my encounter with the silver-haired  woman. Somewhere along the way we fell into step together. I smiled at her, impressed that a woman of her age would be marching. Linking arms we walked side by side.

 “This is my first march. I felt I had to come.” I confided. “And you?”

The woman told me that half a century ago when she was twenty, she had marched with Susan B. Anthony to win women the vote.

“I was scared to death by my own daring, The world didn’t take kindly to uppity women back then.” She laughed, her eyes crinkling at the corners, and shook her head  at the ways of the world.” My family was scandalized and my gentleman friend left me over it. But I marched anyway,” she said.

And in that moment, I realized I was in the presence of a living, breathing, direct link with history — and that this courageous woman and others like her had put themselves on the line for something they believed was simple  justice — for everyone. Now I was part of the link.

I felt overwhelmed by emotion. “Thank you for my right to vote,” I whispered. “I won’t ever take it for granted — or any other right.”

Our eyes met, an understanding passed between us. We hugged goodbye when the march ended at Bryant Park. Intending to head straight for the subway, I began weaving my way through the throngs of women who stood  listening to the speakers. But I, also felt compelled to stop and listen myself. The sky was darkening as I walked away from the crowd on my way home. My husband would have to understand.

***

So, Happy Woman’s Equality Day — we’ve come a long way baby, as the slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes once said. But let us not forget our sisters around the world who are enslaved, genitally mutilated, denied the right to an education, and even the right to show their faces outside their homes.

Let us not forget either that although Congress officially recognized August 8, 1971 as Women’s Equality Day, all these years later, the state of West Virginia remains as the lone holdout before the amendment becomes the law of the land.

Also remember that political and religious factions are committed to stripping women of their hard-won right to choose,are hard at work right now. And finally, that a reckless, misogynistic sexist man is now our President — and that the newest appointee to the United States Supreme Court is an accused sex offender and hostile to female equality.

Mid-term elections are almost upon us. Vote wisely. Vote for progressive candidates. Yes, we’ve come a long way baby, but obviously, we still have a long way to go!

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When The Print Proof Arrived In The Mail

The day the proof of my first full length book, Perfect Strangers: A Memoir Of The Swinging 70s arrived in the mail, tears of pure joy had already formed in my eyes, as I cut open the mailing envelope. They rolled freely down my cheeks while I held my written achievement in my hand.

***

I’d dreamed of this day since 1978, when a rampantly promiscuous cycle of my life drew to a close –and I began the process of analyzing the sequence of events that had unfolded during the four years since splitting with my husband, Paul. I was twenty-nine and deeply frustrated by my inability to achieve orgasm during intercourse. When I discovered him, naked and on top of my best friend, Cassandra, it wasn’t the infidelity that hurt me the most — it was the sizzling sex they were engaged in that cut to my core.

“You’re so damned hot,”he whispered, kissing her. “Come for me, baby.” Obligingly, Cassandra’s small moans of pleasure rose to a scream. Her large round ass raised right off the bed, her body stiffened, her toes curled, and her eyes rolled back in her head. She came for what seemed like hours, while Paul gazed down at her in delight.

Damn, I thought bitterly, Twelve years of marriage,. We were never that hot! And with that, my life changed forever, and I began my journey from a frustrated housewife to an erotic explorer!

Perfect Strangers documents my sexual coming-of-age as a divorced single mom during a decade of unprecedented personal freedom. My adventure began in an upstate New York suburb and transported me to the Land of Oz, otherwise known as mid-70s San Francisco — an era when casual sex seemed as simple as a handshake — but for a woman to achieve orgasm, vaginal or otherwise, well good luck on that!

***

By 1981, I’d taught myself to write on my electric typewriter and had completed the original draft of my story. I learned of a gathering of writers and agents at Media Alliance, at Fort Mason, in San Francisco. I attended the gathering. Amazingly, that evening, I landed an agent for my erotic memoir! I was high with excitement. I printed out copies, and she began the process of snail mailing my manuscript to major publishing houses. My elation was short lived. By year’s end I’d accrued ten turn-downs and my agent was done with me.

Being a visual artist and not belonging to a writer’s community, and with no internet to assist me, I had no clue what to do next and accepted my rejections. Licking my wounds, I returned to my world of art fairs where I made my living, believing my dream of publication was over. I placed my memoir in the bottom drawer of my desk, where it remained for the next thirty years.

But I never forgot about it. In 2011 writing still strongly attracted me. I began penning short, hot pieces, writing as Dorothy Freed, the protagonist of my memoir.

I was ignored at first, accruing one rejection after another . But then my luck changed in 2012 and my first erotic story, Plaster Orgasm, was included in the Seattle Erotic Literary Art Anthology, edited by Kerry Cox. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

My initial victory was followed by the acceptance of, Adventure at the Casa Cervantes Hotel, in the Mammoth Book Of Quick and Dirty Erotica, edited by Maxim Jakubowski; followed by After Twenty-Eight Years, in Ageless Erotica, edited by Joan Price; followed by 500 word flash stories in online publications, Ice Skate Sixty-Nine, and The Kiss.

I was on my way! Getting published gave me the confidence keep writing, and enabled me to share pages with with a variety of prominent erotic authors such as Donna George Storey and Rachel Kramer Bussel. During this same time, I was reading at the Erotic Reading Circle each month, and receiving constructive critique from co-facilitators Carol Queen and Jen Cross and other writers. At first I struggled to determine how to create salable pieces of writing, but once I’d started down this new exciting path, and considering how much personal gratification I gained from writing, I saw no choice but to persevere.

***

And now, four decades later, Perfect Strangers: A Memoir Of The Swinging 70s, my first full length book — which brings us back to the tears of joy I shed, as I opened the envelope, removed the print proof, and held my first solo book in my hand.

Let me offer boundless thanks to my friend, Rose Caraway who, after interviewing me on her highly successful, The Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast, felt the story of my erotic coming of age must be shared with a wider audience — and who took on the task of formatting the e-book and print book. And Dayv Caraway, who created my beautiful cover art. And wonderful carol Queen, who believed in the story I shared month after month at the Erotic Reading Circle, and wrote me a kick-ass foreword!

I am filled with joy.

***

A book launch party will take place on Friday, June 1 at 7:30 pm, at the Center For Sex and Culture, in San Francisco. I will be honored by all those who choose to join me in celebration of this great event in my life that has finally come to fruition.